5 NFL coordinators poised to be first-time head coaches

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /
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Don Martindale, Baltimore Ravens
Don Martindale, Baltimore Ravens. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images) /

Every year, NFL coordinators are elevated to head coaches during the coaching carousel cycle. Here are five poised to make the leap for the first time.

Every NFL team mired in perpetual mediocrity is looking for its way out of the quagmire. Oftentimes, these organizations can’t stop getting in their own way. Sometimes, an underqualified  player personnel guy occupying the general manager’s seat makes a huge mistake and drafts the wrong franchise quarterback. One way to fix inherent dysfunction is to get the head coach right.

Once Black Monday rolls around, anywhere from four to eight teams are looking for a new head coach. For whatever reason, the previous guy didn’t work out. Regardless, landing the right head coach helps bad teams turn it around very quickly. The NFL is a league based on parity after all.

Though some organizations think they can solve their issues by promoting from within or making a splash hire with a retread, often the best way to go is bring in one of the top coordinators on the market. Odds are, he’s coming from a well-run organization that has had ample success in recent years because he’s been a big part of that. It doesn’t always work out, but it’s worth a shot.

Here are five NFL coordinators poised to become first-time head coaches in 2021.

26. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. Baltimore Ravens. player. Defensive Coordinator. Don Martindale. 5

The Baltimore Ravens have a loaded coaching staff. John Harbaugh is a Super Bowl-winning coach who is in great position to hoist Lombardi Trophy No. 2 in Tampa this February. The longtime special teams coach under Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles has a pair of great coordinators to work with: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Don Martindale.

Though Roman was up for a few head-coaching gigs last year, his unconventional offensive approach and odd personality may prevent him from getting his shot at leading a team in 2021. Frankly, the Ravens offense will regress to some degree in 2020 because it was at its absolute zenith from a ground-gaining standpoint in 2019. As for Martindale, it’s his turn to be a star.

His side of the ball is dripping with so much talent, it’s just not even fair. The 56-year-old former linebackers coach turned defensive coordinator has had ample success the last decade-plus with the Ravens defense and the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders before that. Even if the NFL is increasingly an offensive-centric league, top still defensive minds get head coaching gigs.

What gives Martindale hope is two-fold. One, he’s coaching on arguably the team in the AFC. If the Ravens get to an AFC Championship game, he’ll be in the mix for a head-coaching opportunity. Two, he has the feel of the next Vic Fangio as a longtime defensive coach who could get his shot in the right situation. If Fangio’s Denver Broncos succeed this fall, that bodes well for Martindale, too.